How to Increase Laptop Speed for Free

If it’s free (speed), it’s for me.
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We all have expectations for our laptops. We want them to work fast, enabling us to accomplish any task we want, whether it’s a large work projection or the next level of our favorite video game. Sadly, our laptops often disappoint us, running slow and bringing all smooth productivity to a halt. Restoring performance isn’t difficult, and you can try many methods to increase speed for free.

If you want your laptop to run smoother, feeling more like the day you first bought it (or you just bought it but feel it’s not running at the speed it should), here are some free things to try to boost it.

Thinking of buying a new laptop? Check out Global PC’s overview of the best laptops currently available.

Ensure You’re in the Optimal Power Configuration Profile

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This is a big deal. Choosing the wrong power configuration profile can affect performance. If your laptop thinks you want it to run quietly or cool, it might not allow the CPU and GPU to fully utilize their potential.

For many laptops, finding both the Windows power plans and specialized manufacturer plans has become common. Almost any gaming laptop you come across will come pre-installed with system management software containing all the power configuration profile management you might need, and generic laptops are also becoming more common, but unless you know where to look for it, you’ll be stuck with whatever settings your laptop came with out of the box.

On Windows 11 computers, go to “Settings,” select “System,” and then choose “Power & battery.” On this page, look for “Power mode” and set it to “Best performance.” Then look for any tools pre-installed by the laptop manufacturer. Examples include Lenovo Legion Arena, Alienware Command Center, Razer Synapse, Acer Predator Sense. In these tools, you should be able to find different power configuration profiles (make sure your computer is plugged in to see all options), which will allow you to fully utilize the system’s potential.

If you want to go a step further, you can try undervolting.

Download the Latest GPU Drivers

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Whether you have a gaming laptop or a workstation, having an independent GPU and not running on the latest appropriate drivers can potentially waste a significant amount of performance. Drivers help optimize the GPU’s handling of selected applications and can make a big impact. In recent years, Intel’s Arc graphics card is a perfect example, achieving significant performance gains through driver updates. AMD, Nvidia, and Intel all have different tools to update their drivers, so research the components in your computer to find the appropriate update method.

Adjust Windows’ “Performance Options”

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Your laptop runs Windows, and Windows runs on your laptop, which means it has its own overhead. It consumes resources, occupies clock cycles, and does some unnecessary things in the name of looking pretty, which you can trim down to redirect horsepower elsewhere.

Getting into this setting menu can be a bit tricky. You can open the “Start” menu and start typing “Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows” until the same text appears for you to select, but Windows search can be picky. Alternatively, you can open Command Prompt, type “systempropertiesperformance.exe,” and launch the tool that way. You can also find it in C: > Windows > System32 > SystemPropertiesPerformance.

In the “Performance Options” tool, select the “Visual Effects” tab, then uncheck any unnecessary options. The more you uncheck, the less extra processing your system does to make Windows look prettier. Some of these are indeed very useful, and they’re unlikely to bog down a mid-range laptop, but if your system experiences significant slowdowns every time, gaining a bit of extra performance by disabling these effects might be worthwhile.

Stop any unnecessary startup applications

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If your computer’s startup speed is particularly slow, it may be because some applications are hogging all the system resources during the boot process. Not only does the process of starting each application slow down the speed, but also the memory and processing they consume after they run can slow things down until you manage to close them all.

Instead, you can prevent them from starting altogether. To do this, simply go to “Settings” > “Apps” > “Startup” (you can also quickly access this by typing “Startup” in the Windows search bar and selecting “Startup Apps”). From this menu, you can uncheck each application that you don’t want to automatically start every time Windows boots up.

Make sure there’s no memory hogging

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Even if you stop a bunch of startup applications, the purpose of having a computer is to let things run on it, so eventually you’ll have to let some programs utilize its resources. But you should still remain vigilant about memory consumption, as it’s a quick way to slow down the speed again.

If you feel like your system is running unexpectedly slow, jump to Task Manager (Ctrl+Shift+Esc will bring it up instantly), select “Processes” from the left-hand menu, and then click on the “Memory” column to quickly sort by it. Here, you’ll be able to quickly identify any programs or processes hogging a significant amount of memory (or CPU, disk, or network bandwidth). If the application you want to use isn’t near the top of that list, there might be some other applications worth stopping.

Pause Windows Updates

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When it comes to system resource consumption, Windows updates can be a significant drain on performance. Downloading and installing updates can be quite cumbersome, and even high-performance computers can be affected if updates are running in the background. Low-performance systems will make matters worse, sometimes grinding to a halt for no apparent reason until you realize that Windows updates have kicked in.

Updating applications is important. Don’t get it wrong. But updates may need to wait until you’ve finished everything you want to do. If you go to “Settings” > “Windows Update,” you should find an option to pause updates for one to five weeks. You can take advantage of this to give yourself time to complete what you’re doing. If you want to stay up-to-date, remember to resume updates later.

Take advantage of your router’s QoS settings.

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The speed of your laptop isn’t purely a result of the laptop itself. If you’re experiencing slow internet speeds, it could easily be coming from your router. Depending on your router, you might have an option called Quality of Service (or QoS for short). This is a tool used to prioritize different traffic and devices on your network. Try accessing your router’s settings (usually done by visiting 192.168.0.1 in a browser, but the process will vary depending on your router) and finding any QoS tools it might contain, and prioritize your laptop for higher priority.

Look for ways to optimize airflow.

Nothing slows down a fast system more than heat, and it’s easy to stifle the potential of laptops. Most laptop enclosures have ports and slots for drawing in cold air and expelling hot air. Any obstruction to any one of these can lead to heat buildup and decreased performance inside the system. Even passive cooling systems lacking these vents often rely on heat transfer from a metal chassis to the air, so they’re prone to suffocation as well.

To avoid this, make sure your laptop isn’t placed on anything soft like blankets, carpets, pillows, or even lap desks. You want to place it on a flat surface so its feet can properly elevate it, allowing airflow underneath. If it has vents on the sides or back, you don’t want to block them either. Placing the laptop on a surface with its own slots or vents can further restrict airflow, so avoid that as well. Putting a fan in the mix, blowing cool air towards the laptop, might even give it a bit of a boost.

All of this won’t make much sense if your system has sucked up too much dust and debris, leading to blockages inside the ventilation system. If you think your system might be in this condition (you might see dust inside if you flip it over and look through the vents), consider opening up the laptop and cleaning out the dust.

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